Although his coach said that Nunes can "jump out of the gym," the off-guard still can't be counted on to carry the load, rebounding-wise, considering his height.

That's where Smith and sophomore forward Nathan Scarf (6-2) will be needed most.

"This will be a learning year for us," Schildwachter said. "Because we graduated five of our eight players, we're still trying to figure out who will play where."

The Saints will run a read-and-react offense that the coach hopes will help carry them to a playoff berth in an expanded C Conference that now includes Gerstell Academy, St. John's and Cristo Rey.

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"Just to qualify for the playoffs would be icing on the cake," Schildwachter said.

St. Paul's

2011 record: 20-8

Returning starters: Junior forward Nick Cabral (6-5) and senior guards Tanner Brooks (6-2) and Miles Davis (6-1).

Senior Breakdown: There's no reason to believe the Crusaders' back-to-back 20 win seasons of the past two years are a thing of the past.

St. Paul's has a realistic shot of doing it again with seven varsity returnees and a promising batch of newcomers.

"A lot of guys are learning new roles so it's definitely a transition," St. Paul's coach Seth Goldberg said. "But it's not a transition where we are bringing in eight new guys."

No player will be more important to the Crusaders' success than Brooks, who averaged 13 points last year and moves from shooting guard to the point.

That move was necessitated after the team lost steady Nigel Sydnor to graduation.

The Crusaders also lost some depth when another point guard, Tony Williams, suffered a severe knee injury.

But Goldberg has plenty of confidence in Brooks.

"He is going to Skidmore (College) next year to play basketball," the coach said. "Tanner spent the whole offseason becoming a better player."

Senior small forward Lamonte Wade (6-1), the team's sixth man last year, is St. Paul's best post scorer. He averaged 13 points and seven rebounds per game last year.

Goldberg knows on most nights either Brooks or Wade will lead the team in scoring.

"Lamonte is a tough kid," Goldberg said. "You know he will be able to get it done. The same thing with Tanner."

The Crusaders have the makings of a standout frontline.